BOOKS
04/23/2013 03:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2013

NYT Book Reviews: How The System Works

Alamy

If you've ever wondered how to get a book reviewed in the New York Times, or why it is that some books receive several reviews over different editions of the paper, the public editor Margaret Sullivan revealed that the system that they work under is... no system at all.

"I often hear from Times readers who are puzzled, and sometimes annoyed, that a single book is getting so much attention when other worthy books get no notice at all. It can seem odd, especially when two reviews appear within days of each other," she wrote today on the Public Editor's Journal.

"I talked to Scott Heller, theater and books editor, about the frequent duplication and the amount of attention sometimes heaped on one author. He explained that The Times’s three staff book critics — Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin and Dwight Garner — make their own decisions about what to review. They do so without regard to, or knowledge of, what the editors of the Sunday Book Review, a separate entity, may have assigned or have planned. The Book Review has its own editor and staff."

She finished her piece saying "the current system is the most practical and “seems to work,” [Heller] said."

Commenters on the piece mostly don't agree.

Sixofone wrote:

Seems to work for whom? For the NYT's editors and reviewers? Sure. They get to maintain their level of autonomy and power. For the authors of good books that aren't reviewed? For the Times' readers? No. The system is impractical and doesn't work at all.

It's not as if the Times is a massive government bureaucracy. The current system could be changed by the managing editor and publisher with a phone call and an email, followed by a brief meeting.

V added: "No, the current system doesn't work. It annoys readers."

What do you think? Should the NYT only review a book once? Does it matter who they review at all? Let us know in the comments!

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